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Stewardship of the Stories: Learning from Black Engineering Students’ Lived Experiences

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2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)


Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Track 6: Technical Session 6: Stewardship of the Stories: Learning from Black Engineering Students' Lived Experiences

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Tanya D Ennis University of Colorado Boulder Orcid 16x16

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DR. TANYA D. ENNIS is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Research, Innovation and Creative Work and Innovation in the Research and Innovation Office at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is also the owner of the Ennis Consulting and Research Group, LLC. Dr. Ennis received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and her M.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She also earned her PhD in Education - Learning Sciences and Human Development from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Donna Auguste Ph.D. Auguste Research Group, LLC Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Donna Auguste is an electrical engineer, computer scientist, and data scientist. She is the founder and CEO of Auguste Research Group, LLC, based in Oceanside, California, USA. She currently works with sensor technology and drones, including teaching STEM concepts through coastal drone piloting and aerial/geospatial data analytics.

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Cynthia Hampton Ph.D. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16

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Cynthia Hampton (she/her) is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) at Virginia Tech. She has done work as a transformational change postdoctoral research associate with the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research and practice spans student intervention programs, faculty agency, evaluation, grant-writing, and facilitation of change initiatives.

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In 2019 - 2021, during a research study involving 24 Black engineering student participants who were currently or formerly enrolled at a predominantly White university in the United States, some participants answered interview questions, based on their lived experiences, in a storytelling manner. These participants used a narrative form of storytelling to share their experiences at the university and other settings, including experiences of physical conflicts, emotional conflicts, bias, microaggressions, mental stress, and physical illness.

Their experiences spoke their truth, sometimes for the first time. The participants’ experiences were consequential for each of them, even while being inconvenient and uncomfortable for other people who did not share their experiences and may not believe their truth. However, we believed them. In 2023, we sought to revisit a reflective question related to conducting the original research study: What methodological nuances arose from participants sharing their lived experiences in a study of 24 Black engineering student participants who were currently or formerly enrolled at a predominantly White university? And relatedly, in what ways did these nuances lead to components of deeper stories?

We introduce a new term, a Sounding Line, for the marker-based methodology we developed for this analysis. A Sounding Line marker reflects a research participant’s communication, in the moment, taking measure of the interviewer, determining if they are to be trusted with the personal, culturally-sensitive, and perhaps highly revealing stories from their lived experiences. This paper is about the methodology we developed and applied, in 2023, to the initial dataset from 2019-2021.

Listening to these stories evoked an awareness among the research project interviewers that we were hearing an unexplored expression of lived experiences, so we leaned in to learn more. Trust grew between the students and interviewers, as the interviewers created space for participants to share openly, and the participants responded with honesty and depth. Participants expounded further, sharing a rich tapestry of stories. Participants disclosed their resilience and resourcefulness; their paths to overcoming challenges; frustration and isolation; communities and belonging; support from extended family; the sadness they experienced with outcomes they perceived as unsuccessful; and the joy they experienced with outcomes they perceived as successful.

As researchers and interviewers, we felt a stewardship responsibility to develop a methodology that respects the power of the stories the participants entrusted to us. In this paper, we present a beginning to the methodology we developed and applied to this dataset. It is a relational methodology, intentionally bringing humanity into the research process, embracing the complexity of narrative storytelling while maintaining a consistent approach that may be replicated by others. We include specific examples from four of the participants’ interviews. Our results draw attention to the cadence and revelatory attributes of storytelling, interpreted in the context of experiences of the racialized environment where the participants were immersed as students for their engineering education journey.

Ennis, T. D., & Auguste, D., & Hampton, C. (2024, February), Stewardship of the Stories: Learning from Black Engineering Students’ Lived Experiences Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45479

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